DeKalb New Tech ready for students

August 11th, 2012

News Coverage:

DeKalb New Tech ready for students


Saturday, August 11, 2012, 12:10am

WATERLOO — “There were a lot of ‘wows,’” DeKalb High School associate principal Matt Toth said Friday as he described students’ reactions to their first glimpse of DeKalb New Tech.

The new “school within a school” will open Tuesday with an incoming freshman class of 118 students. A student orientation meeting took place Thursday, followed by a meeting of community and business leaders Friday morning.

Toth, the DeKalb New Tech director, explained New Tech schools focus on project-based learning, integrated technology and the development of 21st century skills such as oral and written communication, collaboration and leadership.

DeKalb New Tech becomes the sixth New Tech high school in northeast Indiana. Within the past 10 years, 86 schools across the nation have joined the New Tech Network.

About 100 students will be added to DeKalb New Tech each year so that after four years, DeKalb will have 400 to 450 students in New Tech, Toth said.

Areas of DeKalb High School have been remodeled and renovated to accommodate New Tech. The areas of learning are starkly different from those found in traditional classrooms. Projection screens are set up around the rooms and there is no “front of the classroom,” Toth said. Standard desks have been replaced with larger group tables that are adjustable in height.

“It’s as mobile and as flexible as possible,” Toth said of the classroom setup. Breakout rooms and a commons area also are available to students.

While the style of teaching and learning is different in a New Tech school, the content area of subjects is centered around state standards, Toth noted. Most courses will be combined, such as pairing English with art, although mathematics will be taught as a standalone course, Toth explained.

“It’s new techniques of teaching,” Toth said of New Tech.

In the grading of students, content mastery will count for 40 percent of the score. Written communication and oral communication each will carry 20 percent, with work ethic and collaboration accounting for the final 20 percent, Toth said.

“We educate the entire student,” he said.

Toth pointed out that students still will take common-core assessments, like students in the traditional high school. New Tech students will take elective courses in the regular high school, he added.

DeKalb New Tech students will receive their own laptop computers to use every day at school. As freshmen, they will not be allowed to take computers home. The future intent is for students to earn the right to take their laptops home if their grades and behavior are in good standing.

New Tech students also will have to option to participate in Four-County Vocational Area Cooperative courses, honors courses and advanced placement courses.

Toth said New Tech students are asked to make a one-year commitment to the program. Some students will need more time to adjust to the different style of learning, he noted. If it is apparent New Tech is not working for a student, the placement will be re-evaluated, Toth added.

Along with Toth, New Tech’s staff includes guidance counselor Jackie Kempf, English facilitator Nancy Irwin, math facilitator Josh Yankey, business facilitator Jennifer Evans, art facilitator Amy Buchs, social studies facilitator Andrew Bigelow, science facilitator Kim Perez and IT director Nate Vance.